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After Minimum Wage Boost, Workers Plan Next Steps

The minimum wage bill, signed last week, will raise pay for 330,000 Connecticut workers. (govnedlamont/instgram.com)
The minimum wage bill, signed last week, will raise pay for 330,000 Connecticut workers. (govnedlamont/instgram.com)
June 3, 2019

HARTFORD, Conn. – With Connecticut set to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, labor organizers now are setting their sights on making further gains for low-wage workers.

Now that Gov. Ned Lamont has signed the legislation, Connecticut's minimum wage will go up to $11 an hour in October, and $15 in 2023.

But while organizers are celebrating that victory, they say there still is work to do to improve the lives of workers in the state.

Juan Hernandez, vice president of SEIU Local 32BJ, points out that fast food workers and other low-wage workers still need benefits such as regular work schedules, health insurance, paid sick days and paid family leave.

"The reality is that minimum wage is not a livable wage, and the only way that those workers will move to a livable wage is to organize the union," he states.

Hernandez says in the coming year, the coalition that advocated for the minimum wage increase will be pushing for health insurance for everyone who works 30 or more hours a week.

Hernandez notes that tip workers, such as waiters and bartenders, are paid less than the current minimum wage and were not included in the new minimum wage law.

"We feel that those workers should be making a minimum wage that is not $10.10 an hour, or in some cases less,” he stresses. “And we will be helping them bring the issue to the capital."

Hernandez adds that there is a national organization for tip workers that also may help restaurant servers and bartenders in Connecticut secure higher hourly wages.

Connecticut has one of the largest earnings and wealth gaps of any state in the nation.

Hernandez says the spending power unleashed by a raise in the minimum wage will make a big difference, especially in areas with higher concentrations of low-wage workers.

"The economy in cities like Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven will be better because the majority of the 330,000 workers that will get a raise live in those cities," he states.

The increase will give an estimated $1.2 billion a year to Connecticut's lowest paid workers, money that will fuel local economic growth.

Disclosure: 32BJ SEIU contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Immigrant Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT